Author Topic: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.  (Read 5207 times)

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Offline WillRidgebackPanorama

Hi.

I'm a rider coming over from the UK, and planning on riding the Transamerica starting in early August 2021. My original planning was that I would ride it East to West, but after research, it seems at that time of year West to East will be the better direction - would anyone with experience or knowledge on this agree with that?

I've done a few month + tours in Europe, but as I'm not used to touring in the US, I'm wondering about the below questions.

- When riding the Transamerica, how much planning do I need to do in terms of camping/accommodation? I'll be planning on camping as much of the route as possible, with the money to use cheap hotels/guesthouses if I need to. Can I expect to just get cycling, and plan accommodation on route, a couple of days or a day ahead?

- Are US riders, and Transamerica riders this season, expecting any major disruptions due to Covid? The general vibe on this forum seems positive in this regard, but a lot of Europe is really going to be shut down this summer, so I'm just looking to get any advice on Covid related concerns from US riders.

- Final question, and forgive me if I sound stupid, but should I be doing any preparation, or understanding any major dangers regarding animal life? As I've said, I'm a confident camper, and have done a lot of wild camping (by the side of the trail or in forested areas) when touring in the past, but I'm not sure what my confidence levels should be when doing this on the trip? Obviously different states will come with different risks in terms of this, but any tips or info or thoughts on that, would be much appreciated.

Cheers for reading, and again, any help is much appreciated.

Best,
Will


Offline John Nettles

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Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2021, 05:39:56 pm »
As far as planning for lodging, if you are following the ACA maps, I would say just the first day or two only.  The vast majority of campgrounds and hotels are shown on the maps unless if a city has lots of them then only a few may be listed.  Google is your friend when in bigger areas.

Who knows what will happen in 3 months with Covid.  IF you are able to come here and IF you have had your shots, you should be OK.  Certain states may have a higher or lower incidence of current cases but that is hard to forecast right now.  If you have not had your shots, I would definitely take precautions.  Heck, you may be able to get the shots over here.  I know my area is basically taking all, officially or not.  The issue for you is you are not a USA citizen so I don't know if that matters.  However, we are vaccinating the illegals so who knows. My guess is you would be required to have the test done within 72 hours of departure (or maybe landing) for the USA that shows you are Covid-free.  This is regardless if you have been vaccinated or not.  Also, this may change.

As far as wildlife, your greatest chance of being attacked (or at least your food) is by a chipmunk or a racoon. That said, NEVER EAT OR PUT FOOD IN YOUR TENT, especially in bear country.  Most public (government) campgrounds have bear lockers to store your food in.

All that said, leaving early August is a bit late for the TransAm, especially if you take your time.  Definitely plan on colder (and possibly snowy nights or days) in the higher elevations of Wyoming in early September. Check out WeatherSpark.com for detailed climate data.

Also, a lot of private and public campgrounds close after Labor Day weekend in early September.  Water may be shut off once freezing temps occur even if the campground is still open.  Plan accordingly.

Finally, be sure to have traveler's health insurance which I believe fairly easy to obtain in your country.  If for some reason you are hospitalized with Covid, you MAY incur huge ($100s of thousands) hospital bills since you are a non-USA citizen.  You WILL incur large to huge bills if it is for something else.  Healthcare in the USA is not cheap unfortunately.

Hope you have a great trip. Tailwinds, John

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2021, 01:45:25 pm »
I've seen a couple of news stories about how camping is going to be a very popular activity this summer. And note that Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park, which is on the TA, closes for the season this year on 9/12. It is illegal to wild camp in the park. Also, be prepared for chilly weather at night. Some don't realize the altitudes involved. Old Faithful in the park sits at over 7,300'. When I camped at Grant Village (7,800') in late June there was frost on the ground in the morning.

Our Labor Day is September 6th this year. Expect large crowds at campgrounds that weekend and the week leading up to it. Many commercial campgrounds require a several night minimum stay during holiday weekends. Try to take advantage of spots like the American Legion Park in Wisdom, MT and the Bike Camp in Twin Bridges, MT.  Probably will not have problems finding space at places like that.

Oregon could be quite hot east of the coastal range. I crossed the state starting on September 7th back in 2002, some of it using the TA. We had at least three days in the 90-100F range with very little shade.

Offline WillRidgebackPanorama

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2021, 12:08:30 pm »
Hey

Thanks for the replies, I really appreciate the help and tips. Regarding Covid scenario - I should have the two jabs by then. As you said, anything can change between now and then, but by the sounds of it, there could be a good chance of flights and travel being possible by then, so I'm hopeful.
Thanks for the tip on health insurance, I will definitely get some good cover, don't want to be caught out.

In regards weather and accommodation, looking at the tips here, I think my attitude is just going to need to be flexible. I'll bring enough money to be caught short at more expensive accommodation options if needs be, and will be open to taking public transport or alternative routes if diversions from the TA are necessary.

I will definitely pickup the ACA maps, and will plan for some cold weather. I think that's one of the greatest differences between Europe and US touring - in UK/Europe, if it's summer, it's going to be generally warm and manageable. But the variation I'm going to be meeting temperature wise should certainly keep things interesting.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2021, 01:20:51 pm »
My guess is you will have a temp range of 27*-100*F maybe even wider.  That said, once you get west of Pueblo, CO, the temps will be somewhat the same but slowly declining the rest of the trip.  The humidity will definitely increase though.

Have a great trip!  Tailwinds, John

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2021, 02:18:35 pm »
Agree with the above. And again, it's the altitude thast can play a factor in some areas. You'll pass through the tiny town of Wisdom, MT. Despite being in a valley, it sits at 6,050'.

When I crossed OR as mentioned above I neglected to mention that we had one early September night at 3,800' that dropped below 32F. Had ice on my tent fly and poles when I woke up that morning. The nice thing is that if ther morning is clear the sun can help warm you relatively quickly.

Offline staehpj1

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2021, 06:03:14 pm »
Planning?  I never do much in the way of planning stops or a schedule.  You will need to look ahead a few days in places where services are spread widely.  It will be important at times to choose a longer of shorter day to set you up for the spacing of services in the following days.  The Adventure Cycling maps have the planning pretty much pre-baked.

Covid...  Tough to say how it will impact availability of services.  I'd guess things will be settling down a bit more by then, but that is just a guess.  I'd say play it by ear and be prepared to adjust to conditions as you find them.

With an August start direction of travel might depend on how many weeks you plan to take.  If you take too long you could well get snow in the mountains going E-W.  As long as you finish fairly quickly you could go either direction.  Typically early season means E-W and late means W-E.  I think that with a 12 week trip I'd go W-E and miss the August heat and humidity in the east and catch the Fall colors in the Appalachians instead.  The first week of October can be really nice in the Appalachians.

Edit: I originally misread and thought you were planning to go E-W.  I slightly edited my comments when I realized my error.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 07:02:27 am by staehpj1 »

Offline jamawani

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2021, 11:25:31 pm »
Going west-to-east with an early August start really is a good choice.
I've done two late summer/fall trips - best time of year.
Although the days really start to shorten fast after Sept. 21.

I've lived in Wyoming for 30 years.
You will be above 6000 ft. / 2000 m. from West Yellowstone to Canon City.
That will be about the first two weeks of September.
You should plan for freezing weather - even a cold snap, low 20s F / -5-7C.
Also, you will likely have a quick, early snow - but it will be gone in a day or two.
Give yourself time to hunker down - the the skies will be sapphire blue.

High elevations campgrounds and cabins close early - often in Sept.
Esp. in Yellowstone - check closing dates.
Fall season is longer than 25 years ago - but still things close fairly early.
(At least by U.K. and east coast U.S. standards.)

Have fun.

Offline WillRidgebackPanorama

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2021, 06:16:40 am »
Firstly, really appreciate all the further knowledge people dropping on here.

A range of 27*-100*F, it's going to be a real challenge for me, one that I look forward to, whilst I sit in my nice warm house typing, but is definitely going to feel very new when on the journey. Haven't ever kitted up for cold weather touring, but i guess it's not rocket science, just take all your kit for the coldest weather, and when in hot places, sleep in the sleeping bag liner and not the bag and such. Also the option of re-stocking stuff on the road - big winter jumper etc.

Yeah, from the reading I've done, I'm constantly seeing Yellowstone as a possible logistically concern. I have been looking at pages such as this https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/hours.htm, and looks like if I can get through Yellowstone in September, preferably pre-20th, it should be OK (depending obviously on the covid variable).

As seems to be the general sentiment when travelling long distance by bike, I'm prepared to flexible in acommodation/logistics if it means not getting into too much trouble on the road.

I was actually planning to take a bike trailer for a bit - I have a big one wheel trailer - but although I love the thing, it's just too heavy for me to imagine carting about for 2-3months.

I'll drop an update message on this thread when I'm on the journey to let everyone know whether I froze too much or not.

Offline staehpj1

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2021, 07:41:57 am »
Getting down below freezing overnight really isn't a big deal and doesn't require much in the way of cold weather gear if the daytime temps are still warming up a bit.  I find I don't even need my winter sleeping pad when the ground isn't frozen.  So I have managed to be comfortable with a very light load with even the occasional overnight low in the teens.  I am a warm sleeper and generally pretty cold tolerant though.  You can maximize the effectiveness of your gear and not pack like it is an arctic expedition until it actually gets truly cold.  I like to look at what record lows are for the time/place and pack for survival at those and comfort at what is more likely.

You don't want to get caught out when it gets truly cold though.  To that end I'd suggest starting as early in August as your schedule allows and maybe saving a bit of mileage in the beginning by starting somewhere that shaves a few miles.  Perhaps look into starting in Florence, OR (ACA lists it as an alternate starting point) the earliest date you can be there.

It helps if you can look at the elevation of where you will be camping that will allow you to have some choice in how cold it will be where you camp.

Offline ray b

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2021, 12:49:19 am »
Firstly, really appreciate all the further knowledge people dropping on here.

A range of 27*-100*F, it's going to be a real challenge for me, one that I look forward to, whilst I sit in my nice warm house typing, but is definitely going to feel very new when on the journey. Haven't ever kitted up for cold weather touring, but i guess it's not rocket science, just take all your kit for the coldest weather, and when in hot places, sleep in the sleeping bag liner and not the bag and such.

I'll drop an update message on this thread when I'm on the journey to let everyone know whether I froze too much or not.

Looking forward to the update. If you're relatively fit, light, and moving well, early August is a reasonable time to head east, as long as you don't dawdle or spend too much time gawking at some of the incredible scenery.

(Strikes me - if you haven't done a quick read of Paul Howard's book, Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands, and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide, you might find you like his approach to American adventure. It's a little dated (his race was 2009), and references to phone cards and pay phones are now a source of humor, but he moves nimbly through preparation and his 2700 mile ride in just a few hours reading time. If I recall, he rides out of West Sussex.)
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2021, 08:56:12 pm »
I'll throw in a few penniesworth from the perspective of European vs American experiences.
I haven't done the transam, by the way. I wandered from Virginia to Texas before dropping in to Mexico.

1. Distances between supplies can be very long by European standards. Google Maps (saved) is your friend to mark off likely stores.
2. Weather can be very extreme by our standards and quick to change.
3. Not all campsites are campsites! Some RV parks have no toilet facilities etc and will turn you away. If you can, sign up for State/National Parks before you leave. Online reservations are the norm and it can be a PITA trying to do that on the road. While I was never turned away from a (real) campsite, just showing up was not appreciated, in the main.  I found camping, in the main, to be quite expensive. But some of those parks?? :D
4. Cell phone coverage can be scarce outside of urban areas. If buying a local SIM card, make sure you understand how to top it up. They wouldn't accept my (Dutch) credit card online (T-mobile).
5. Dogs. Nearly ruined my tour! Never had so many problems so regularly. I kept a squeeztly bottle of water as a repellant.
6. Bridges can be hell! Minimal shoulder, often full of debris. Not pleasant.
7. I strongly recommend a mirror. Saved my life a couple of times. Some drivers can be very aggressive.
8. Fresh food can be scare and expensive. Lots of junk food available in stores but if you want to camp and cook (other than noodles or pasta) that will need planning.
9. Shoulders can be important and seem to be the domain of counties. Cross a county line and the shoulder can disappear.
10. Don't put all your faith in ACA maps. I thought I "have maps will travel". Cycle.travel helped me a lot. For long sections cross country it chose routes that were far superior.

None of that is meant to put you off (or annoy the American cousins!)
I loved my time in the US.

Good luck!

Offline John Nelson

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2021, 02:19:35 am »
Interesting perspective Hobbes. I will note that the U.S. is big, and it can be quite different in different places. On the actual ACA TransAm route, camping is very often free. I averaged $2 a night for a place to stay. On other routes, I’ve paid a lot more.

The TransAm avoids big cities, so fresh food is often difficult to find. It gets better the farther west you go, but that’s also where services get farther apart.

Dogs are quite the problem in Kentucky and Missouri, but much less so farther west.

Offline DoodleUnited

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2021, 08:42:18 am »
Hey guys

I am also from UK planning the W-E TransAm route this year and have very similar queries to Will - thanks Will for asking and to the responses posted.  Very useful indeed!

Ideally I would have liked to the E-W option but as it stands international travel is restricted and having done some research a departure after the end of June (which appears to be the very earliest international travel will open up) is best suited for a W-E direction it seems? I would like to avoid the heat and humidity of Great Plains as much as poss.  I don't travel too well in those conditions, given my pasty Scottish skin and preference for the cold & wet - a year long weather 'attraction' in the beautiful Highlands Region here. 

I will aim to ride an average of 100 miles per day.  My key question is - what would be the ideal time to start an W-E route given my pace and preference to avoid excessive heat and humidity?

Frank

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: UK rider planning Transamerica, West to East, starting August.
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2021, 09:06:28 am »
Doodle, "the heat of August" is a real thing, but balancing your wish to avoid heat against the shutdown of services in Yellowstone, you may have to accept some heat crossing Oregon.  I'd suggest aiming to get to central Wyoming (past Yellowstone) around September 1, so starting around the middle of August.  That should put you into Kansas in mid-September; by then the temperatures may have broken, or you may have to suffer a late heat wave.  Temperatures should have moderated somewhat by the time you get to the Ozarks and Appalachians in Missouri and Kentucky -- though 30C may sound hot to a Scot, it's cooled off from summer 100F for the locals!

You may also want to take a look at the similar topic for the Northern Tier at https://forums.adventurecycling.org/index.php?topic=16899.0.

I'll be curious to see what jamawami and others have to say on this topic!